This is about genocide.
The 1000 km Great Post Road was built only in a year, with a sacrifice of many Indonesian lives. The estimation is around 12,000 lives – but this is a crude number and without proper investigation.
As a child, I attend an Indonesian school and we are all familiar with HW Daendels, known for his cruelty and another famous genocide – the Cultuurstelsel system.
Through this book, Pram takes us on a journey across the most beautiful island in the world, from Anyer to Panarukan. To soften the genocide part, he added personal stories on some of the cities he passed or had spent time in his youth. To give an illustration, this is the Great Post Road route:
I, myself, went on a road trip from Jakarta to Banyuwangi back in 2008. I passed along the same route, the same area, cities, and towns, with some exception of the modern toll road. Navigating through this road is not easy but not that hard either. Gas stations are plenty along the way, but the road is packed with big trucks which can make your trip challenging.
Passing by the small towns will give you knowledge about the people and their culture, also the main produce of the land. I would say it doesn’t change much from Pram’s description. You could sense if you already left the western part and goes into Central Java, even to the eastern part. I recognize this change from the small things, people behavior and language along the street. I could also sense in some area (Cirebon for example), the people are harsher, tougher. History gave them reasons to be tough.
Reading this book takes me back to that road trip: eating various ‘soto’ along the way, a broke down car in Paiton, and riding along the beaches of northern Java.
In a satirical way, Pram had wrapped up a great history lesson for us.
A writer | researcher | lecturer who also a tech-addict and internet-junkie